Tragedy On Denali: Solo Climber Involved In Fatal Fall

The following press release is courtesy of the National Park Service:

The upper portion of the West Buttress Route of Denali, showing the approximate location of the incident. The South Summit of Denali is in the upper right. NPS Photo.

Solo Climber Dies in Fall on Denali’s West Buttress Route 

Denali Park, AK – On Monday, May 20, Denali National Park and Preserve mountaineering rangers located a deceased climber at an elevation of 17,000 feet on the West Buttress route on Denali. On Sunday, rangers were contacted by a concerned family member that had not heard from a climber for several days. The climber had been regularly checking in with family via an InReach communication device during their attempted solo climb of Denali. 

Mountaineering rangers patrolling the upper mountain quickly located the climber’s empty tent at the top of the 16,200-foot ridge. Through interviews, rangers also determined the last known sighting of the climber. Another climbing team had witnessed them traversing from the 17,200 feet plateau to Denali Pass at 18,200 feet on Wednesday, May 15.   

Rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station were able to collect satellite location data from the climber’s InReach account and identified their probable location at 17,000 feet on Denali. The InReach data indicated the device had not changed location since Thursday, May 16, suggesting a fall from the Denali Pass traverse took place on that day. 

On Monday morning as weather on the upper mountain cleared, an NPS mountaineering patrol at the 17,200-foot-high camp located the climber by searching the probable fall location using a spotting scope. The team proceeded to the site and confirmed that the climber was deceased. The ranger patrol then secured the climber in place and returned to high camp. Recovery efforts will be attempted when weather conditions allow. The identity of the fallen climber will be released once family has been notified.   

Since 1980, at least fourteen climbers have died in falls along this treacherous section of the West Buttress route, including the soloist. There are currently 352 climbers on Denali’s West Buttress Route, the majority of whom are much lower on the mountain this early in the climbing season. The climbing season typically begins in early May and ends in early July.

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